Why you should care
Because stand-up is hard enough as it is without taking your knickers off.
First, the comedian tells a story about a Tinder date gone wrong. Then she relates a bout of nasty food poisoning, the result of an undercooked burrito. The crowd looks restless; she pauses and cocks her head. Is that the infamous bell? Yep, that’s her musical time-out card. Cue the track, and the comedian shimmies across the stage and slowly slides out of her skirt. Then she bows to the audience and launches into another story, till the bell tolls again. Welcome to Comic Strip at the Funhouse Lounge in Portland, Oregon, one of the strangest ways to experience new comedians.
Forgoing the heckling traditional to comedy clubs, the Funhouse team took the license of adding stripping to the joke-cracking, and every comedian, no matter gender or body size, has to remove items when the dreaded bell rings — which happens even if they aren’t entertaining the crowd. Forget trial by fire, this is trial by ire. The event tagline: “Not for kids, no children, no squares. Don’t bring the church group.”
An average night might find a comic getting waxed on stage, curled up in Saran Wrap or bellowing a Broadway song.
For Funhouse Lounge artistic director Andy Barrett, the man behind the marriage of stand-up and stripping, getting bare is a natural extension of the job. “Comics, at least some of them, are basically naked up there,” he explains, “but usually [it] has to do with baring their souls. Comic Strip introduces the added element of literal nudity.” Initially, Barrett was nervous that comics might not sign up for the idea, finding the stripping part a little too risqué. But, surprisingly, he says, most were game for it, appreciating the entertainment aspect and how they could play with taboos.
The first-ever Comic Strip was held in March 2016. Since then, the $6 show has become a staple, held the last Friday of the month at 10 p.m. An average night might find a comic getting waxed on stage, curled up in Saran Wrap or bellowing a Broadway song. On my trip, a man wearing a tutu tiptoed across the stage, swung around a pole and did the worm across the floor, his balls winking at the audience. Five comics perform each night, and when the stripmaster rings that bell, off come the clothes. It makes a change from more serious stand-up, and the performers embraced the ridiculousness of the act, gyrating and slinking around the stripper pole and removing clothing — none of that high school, here’s-a-sock attitude.
In return, the crowd whooped in support — I hollered so hard I had a sore throat the next day. If you’re looking for a steamy night, you’re best off hitting a different spot; there’s nudity here, but it’s of the bright, boisterous kind — no sultry shenanigans. But hey, you’re in a bar decorated with scary-clown pictures, so what do you expect?
Keep Portland weird, folks!